"A common theme of conversations with technology leaders at financial companies is that there has been a lasting mindset shift, and the recognition that digital is not an option."
We spoke to Mark Lusted, CEO of Dock9, about the firm's recent acquisition, what changes will remain in the market post-Covid, and what one thing any firm should review as part of their customer's digital journey.
FR: Who are Dock9 and what service do you provide?
I founded Dock9 in 2008 and since then we’ve grown into one of the leading digital solutions agencies for the financial services sector. Our mission is to build next-generation financial experiences for a new generation of customers and our primary focus is on helping incumbent financial services companies innovate, adapt and hit back at the startups.
Our core services are User Experience (UX) design and technical implementation and support. A typical project for Dock9 involves the design and build of websites and portals that are integrated with core systems to offer self-service digital experience (both to customers and brokers) that drive real business change. Over the last two years we have also expanded our capabilities in the area of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and in particular automated conversational chatbots.
We’ve had the opportunity to work with challenger banks and specialist lenders such as Masthaven Bank, Castle Trust Bank, Vida Homeloans and Kensington Mortgages and global brands such as Assurant, Arch Capital and Virgin Money.
FR: Dock9 has recently been acquired by MagiClick, what does this mean for your business and what are the plans for 2021 and beyond?
From the first meeting with MagiClick’s founders I saw that we shared the same vision for the future of financial services technology and passion for helping incumbent players adapt and innovate. There are not many digital agencies in the world with more than a couple of banking clients, and MagiClick is unique in supporting the digital transformation of over 30 financial institutions in 7 countries (including HSBC, QNB, Bank Audi, First Abu Dhabi Bank, BNP Paribas TEB Investment).
The deal is a big step forward for the business and gives us much greater depth of resources and scale to draw upon in future. It also enables us to offer more services, adding in Mobile App development and SharePoint development to our existing capabilities.
I have moved to the role of CEO of MagiClick’s UK operations and I’m personally really excited to continue to lead our team into this next chapter. We’ve got some exciting announcements to make in the coming months - watch this space!
FR: As experts in digital user experience, what impact has Covid had on design and customer journeys today and what will remain with us post pandemic?
With the global Covid-19 pandemic, companies scrambled to adjust to a ‘new normal’ by embracing a fully digital model. In many cases, creative solutions have been implemented to bridge the gap and keep business running as usual to the best extent possible. This was particularly true in the mortgage space with lenders facing huge operational challenges dealing with spikes in payment holiday requests alongside lending (for those that remained in the market).
For many companies we’ve seen 5-10 years of technological innovation crammed into in many cases just a few months last year. However while 2020 was the year of firefighting and adaption through necessity for many companies, a common theme of conversations with technology leaders at financial companies is that there has been a lasting mindset shift, and the recognition that digital is not an option. The lessons learned from those intense few weeks adapting to the initial lockdown have not been forgotten.
The brief’s that we’re seeing at Dock9 in 2021 so far show that many companies have big plans to use digital to reinvent the operating model, starting with digitising previously manual processes as a first step, with a longer-term goal of moving from selling commodity products to delivering truly digitally enabled intelligent services.
FR: What areas for both lenders and brokers do you see being ripe for change in this decade?
I think this can be split into two areas, the first being “getting the basics right.” It’s been well discussed in recent years that the mortgage market has been slow to adapt and, for example, basics such as automated electronic passing of data between borrowers, brokers, lenders and conveyancers still have a long way to go.
This, coupled with wider adoption of Digital ID and Open Banking early in the process will minimise admin and rekeying tasks for brokers and will enable them to focus on what matters most - giving advice. Whilst not revolutionary on their own, these incremental changes (along with conveyancing digital transformation) as a whole add up to more than the sum of their parts and will finally deliver a consistently faster and better mortgage experience for consumers along with driving down operational costs for the industry. And as speed of service and operational efficiency will become an increasingly important part of the decision making process for consumers, this will lead to additional competitive pressure growing on those that fall behind.
With the impact of the current pandemic on for example employment types, the self-employed, borrower complexity in terms of employment gaps, increased unsecured borrowing or poor credit, it means that there is a greater challenge around early certainty of lending decision than ever before. Especially as and none of these are mutually exclusive. Big data will have a huge role to play to help lenders decipher the increased complexity of consumers, with significant strides made by the time we go into the second half of the decade.
FR: If there was one thing that any firm should undertake/review as part of their customer's digital journey, what would it be?
A good place to start is to ask “when did we last test our digital services with actual users?”
The most successful 'fintech' companies all have one thing in common: they leverage the power of User Research to avoid the trap of making decisions on a “hunch” when designing their products. It surprises me just how many financial services companies still design and build digital services using a process that is fundamentally focused on the opinions of people within a business, and their understanding of the requirements.
Running a usability test in a controlled environment, with actual users, can often blow those assumptions out of the water. Organising a usability test and audit is often our first piece of work with a new client and can be a real eye-opener!